Apr 08, 2016
I must admit I was not the biggest fan of misal during my growing up days. I remember my parents used to stand in long queues to get a parcel of the spicy, albeit a bit sweet Bedekar misal every Sunday. Many years have passed since then, and over the years I have developed quiet a taste for the ‘World’s Best Vegetarian Dish’ – misal!
Where did misal originate? Who served the first misal? Is the Kolhapuri misal better or the Puneri one? What is the ‘authentic’ recipe for misal? I have encountered endless debates on various food forums, but I’ve hardly ever participated in any. For me, misal simply means a ‘mixture’ of stuff, which tastes good together and is easy to assemble. Like any other dish, each region in Maharashtra makes their misal differently, and each household has a different recipe. It really doesn’t matter to me much because I enjoy misal in any form, never mind if it is Puneri, Kolhapuri or from Nashik!
A misal generally consists of a mixture (this varies everywhere), some raw vegetables (onions and tomatoes) and the ‘sample’ i.e. the curry, which accompanies the misal that is also called katt, tarri or rassa. Here I am going to list 6 of my most favourite misal joints in Pune.
Vaidya Upahar Gruha
Vaidya Upahar Gruha was started in 1912 by Raghunath Ramchandra Vaidya, who had migrated to Pune from the Konkan region. The place was started at a time when not many Maharashtrians ventured into the food business. Over the 100 years, ownership has stayed within the family and currently the place is run by Deepak Joshi, Vaidya’s great-grandson. The ‘Saturday off’ rule has been in operation since inception, to make sure that the staff is happy and can work in a better frame of mind. Many people still believe that Vaidya is the first ‘misal’ restaurant in Pune or even maybe Maharashtra. The misal here consists of cooked pohe (flattened rice), pohe chivda, shev and onions. But what sets the misal here apart is that the curry is green in colour as they use fresh green chillies and turmeric as opposed to the red ones at almost all other misal joints. It tastes great, and I come here for sheer heritage value!
Shri Krishna Bhuvan
Located in one of the bylanes of Tulshibaug and established in 1941, Shri Krishna Bhuvan serves one of the best misal pav in Pune according to me. At Shri Krishna Bhuvan, you get the typical Puneri misal served in the form of cooked pohe, potato bhaaji and pohe chivda covered with shev and raw onions, served along with two slices of bread and a ‘sample’ made from red chillies, onions, tomatoes and grated coconut. The grated coconut makes this misal very, very palatable to people from across the country and also the world. Of course, the spice level is variable with the amount of ‘hot oil’, which is topped on the sample! This place is a favourite among my international guests when I take them out on a food walk of the old city.
Bedekar Tea Stall
Started sometime in 1948 by Dattatray Bedekar, the Bedekar Tea Stall (yes, it is called that) is now run by the third generation of the Bedekar family. The taste of the misal at Bedekar is very unique. The sample or the curry is spicy, but has a sweetish tinge to it, and you can wash it down with a kokum sharbat. Punekars love the sweet and spicy taste, but I know a lot of people who aren’t fans of this. When you visit this place off Laxmi Road, make sure to wait till you get space to sit. On fast days, they also serve an equally yummy Upvas misal.
Damodar P30 is run by the Thakar family in Bibwewadi. Apart from the unique name, the thing, which attracted me to this place was the fact they serve five different types of misal – Mastani, Peshwai, Jain, Kolhapuri and Damodar. In addition, they also do the upvas misal on fast days. I have tried three different misals, and all of them had a very distinctive flavour and taste. The Damodar misal is served with farsan and red rassa, and the Peshwai misal is served with a green rassa and some batata chiwda. But, my favourite misal here is the upvas misal, which is a mixture of sabudana khichadi, a special batata bhaaji, batata chiwda and a groundnut rassa, which is danyachi aamti (a curry made from groundnuts). Definitely a must try!
Indiano Grill is essentially a food truck parked on Sinhagad Road, and has a garden seating area. Since a few months, they have been serving khaas chuli varchi misal, a special misal cooked on firewood. Considering misal’s history in Pune, Indiano Grill is the ‘new kid on the block’! But the firewood-cooked misal is worth a try. The curry or katt has that earthy flavour along with that spicy kick. The pav is toasted, which is a nice twist. The curry and the kanda-limbu (onions and lemon) keep coming, no questions asked! The ‘khaas chuli varchi misal’ is served everyday between 8:30 am to 12:00 pm except on Thursdays.
You won’t find Shripad on a lot of misal lists of Pune. Run by Ojas Patil and his family, Shripad is in Pirangut on the road, which goes further to Mulshi. The strategic location makes this place a favourite among a lot of weekend travellers who swear by this place. For me too, this place is a must-halt when travelling to the area. The misal is made of farsan, onions and shev. The curry is red in colour and spicy with matki (moth beans), which I simply love.
Photos: Vidyuth Singh
Jayesh Paranjape is the founder of The Western Routes, a Pune-based travel company, which focuses on promoting responsible tourism in Maharashtra. Being a food lover, Jayesh regularly guides food and heritage walks in different parts of his city.